At 25 years old, I am having a hard time articulating my specific interests and career goals. I am hesitant to identify one area of expertise to focus my energy on since I don’t want to restrict myself from pursuing everything else. I seek to improve the collaboration of and communication between the worlds of business and technology, but that seems incredibly vague next to my engineering friends and colleagues who have an in-depth, defined, applicable skillset.
I have great people skills, well-developed emotional intelligence, and solid management potential. But my skills look a lot like fluff in a world where my friends knows not only that they want to be a web developer, but more specifically that they want to work for a wireless networking company and use a specific programming language to improve back-end functionality.
Despite lacking a well-defined technical skillset, I am optimistic that there is a place for me within Silicon Valley. One thing that convinces me of this is a NY Times interview I read several months ago with Bing Gordon, a partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Gordon says a lot of interesting things about his background, his experience as Chief Creative Officer at Electronic Arts, and how he learned to be a manager.
But the segment I found most interesting and pertinent was when he described how he is not power hungry and is actually better with influence than power.
“I like having influence. I like being with interesting people and helping them become better and being part of the flow of ideas. And that’s a little bit uncomfortable, as a boss. It doesn’t make sense to people that the boss, who is kind of a figurehead and maybe a confidence-giving parent figure, just wants to be an experienced helper. As a person of authority, I’m kind of teacher-consultant more than wielder of power.”
Gordon has found this is the way he can be the most successful and applies this to his role in Venture Capital.
“I just do stuff I’ve learned over time and work with people who I like who are really motivated, who want to listen to me most of the time and take feedback and then make it their own. And I work in areas that I want to learn about, areas that are fascinating, because fascination is a good thing.”
And that, quite literally, is what I want to do. I’ve learned a lot in my current role about how different business models and ideas can be made successful across a variety of sectors. From medical devices to iphone apps, from networking solutions to clean energy, I find all of those areas fascinating though I could not claim expertise in any one.
I am still a little uneasy saying outloud that I don’t quite know what I want to do. But I do know I want to influence the people that have impressive tangible, technical skillsets and guide them in how to turn their brilliant, undeveloped ideas into a commercializable business.